Friday, March 4, 2011

Grocery Shopping – Maximizing Your Dollar and Your Time

I love shopping. I should be more specific: I love shopping for fabric. I do not, however, enjoy grocery shopping. Don't get me wrong, I love a fully stocked pantry. It just seems so repetitive and...necessary. And with the sudden rise in the cost of living (up 6% nationally with the unrest in the Middle East), it's even more difficult to squeeze our weekly menu into our ever-shrinking budget. Good news is on the horizon, though. I've found a few tips that have helped me become more organized and a happier, healthier shopper. If you've got tips of your own, please share them in the comments section. Happy weekend!
Organize your coupons.
Use a small accordion-style book in your purse to keep coupons easily accessible. Sort them by expiration date so you know which one’s need to be used first. Visit websites of major brands to see if there are any coupons available for the items you buy (Gerber, Scott, Nature Valley, etc). Wal-Mart usually has a lot of great coupons - as well as free samples - listed on their website.
Do your research.

Many stores will honor competitor prices if you provide a current ad. Although this might cost you some time, the savings can be well worth it. In our house, we usually shop about once a week. Generally, we receive our grocer fliers once a week as well. Set aside some time to go through the advertisements making note of items you need and others you can stock up on that won’t spoil (canned items, flour, sugar, etc). To save yourself from having to travel to 4 different stores to get those special deals, go to the store that has the most products on your list for the cheapest amount. Then, take the rest of the advertisements with you to that store for price matching so you still get the benefit of the competitor prices without the extra trips.
Plan ahead.
Make a menu for your family for the week (or month, if you have the means to work this far in advance). Plan for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, side dishes, drinks, etc. This way, when you are perusing your grocery ad’s, you know what to look for and you’re not just buying on impulse. You will statistically spend less money if you shop with a plan or a list than without. You’re food will be less likely to spoil if you know what you’re going to do with it ahead of time. I’ve thrown away countless amounts of food for no other reason than we simply didn’t eat it before the moldy spores took over.
Be prepared.
Don’t shop hungry! You WILL spend more money. You’ll also be more likely to buy the junk that you’re undoubtedly trying to stay away from. If you can help it, don’t take your children with you to the store. Shopping within a budget is stressful enough; having your kids beg you for every item in every isle just adds to your stress. If you must take your children with you, AVOID THE CEREAL ISLE. I swear, the cereal companies know how to turn your little angels into cereal-craving demons. It’s the prettiest isle in the store because it has the most color, cartoons and is a kid-friendly environment.
Chill out.
Grocery shopping doesn’t have to be a dreaded task. Make it more enjoyable by listening to an MP3 player or book on tape while you shop. Just make sure you keep it at a reasonable level so you can be courteous to other shoppers. It’s very annoying when you’re trying to get your cart around someone who has been standing in the middle of the aisle staring at the cans of tomatoes for 5 minutes. Don’t be “that guy”.
Get moving.
Bring a bottle of water with you. Shopping is – gasp! – exercise, so you are likely to need a drink while you’re walking about. If you really want to trick yourself, don some ankle weights under some loose jeans (please, PLEASE don’t wear your pajamas or sweat suits to the grocery store!) so you can enhance your shopping workout.

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